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Tennis Extraordinaire Naomi Osaka: Being Her Authentic Self

At only 23-years-old, professional tennis player Naomi Osaka has won four Grand Slam titles including two Australian Opens and two US Opens. The Japanese Haitian American athlete is exceeding in a majority white sport. In her career, she has proven to be an inspiration to people everywhere.

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In her most recent victory at the Australian Open, Osaka defeated tennis legends Serena Williams and Jennifer Brady. She has now broken the record of being the youngest woman to win back-to-back majors, since 1988. While Osaka has been dominating on the tennis court, she has used her platform to advocate for social justice.

In the wake of the global Black Lives Matter protest, many athletes used their social status to shed light on the movement. It was at the 2020 US Open when Osaka wore seven unique face masks, each with the name of someone who lost their lives to police brutality and racial injustice. Names on the masks included Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castle, and Tamir Rice. As a result, Osaka caught the attention of Trayvon Martin’s mother and Ahmaud Arbery’s father, both thanking her for raising awareness. Her decision to wear racial justice masks continued the conversation of athletes’ role in creating social change.

Being one of the few people of color in a predominantly white sport may make it feel like a heavy burden to carry. However, these conversations are critical for not only having political equality but equality in sports as well. It is important that minorities who are interested in playing predominantly white sports feel included.

Not only is Osaka taking over the tennis world but taking over social media as well. The internet has been captivated by her relationship with Grammy-nominated rapper Cordae. The pair have been together since 2019. Cordae has been seen cheering on and congratulating his girlfriend at the 2020 US Open. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, GQ featured the couple as part of their Modern Lovers issue. In the interview, Osaka and Cordae recall their epic love story and life in quarantine.   

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Having someone like Osaka campaign for racial justice is a powerful move that will inspire more minorities to be interested in predominantly white sports. Alongside, Osaka’s fun personality and killer reflexes, I’m sure she has a long career ahead of her with activism and tennis. I hope that she continues to use her platform to advocate for social justice and inspire other athletes to do the same. 

Ryanne Howard

Hampton U '23

Ryanne Howard is a sophomore at Hampton University. She is a Strategic Communications major with a minor in Leadership Studies from Raleigh, North Carolina. At Hampton University she is a member of the William R. Harvey Leadership Institute as well as the Student Recruitment Team. Ryanne aspires to be a Public Relations Manager for a major company in the golfing industry.
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